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Data Culture: What Is it and Why Do You Need One?

What can we conclude?

Jay Baer, marketing and customer experience expert, is credited with saying, “We are surrounded by data, but starved for insights.” It’s true. We are surrounded by data in the business arena, but is all of it useful? Once we collect data, does it mean anything without analysis?

Many business owners who are using their data and using it well note that data is the new “oil” or “currency”. “Data and Analytics (D&A) is considered the next frontier for innovation and productivity in business.” (Source: Forbes.com) With labels like that, one would think that all businesses would be examining their data closely and carefully to see where it points them in terms of key indicators of overall business health. However, according to Zippia Research, “While 97.2% of companies say they’re investing in big data and AI projects, just 24% describe their organizations as data-driven.”

What is a data culture?

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The presence of a data culture appears to be what is missing in this statement reflecting our businesses today. Technically, data culture “is the collective beliefs and behaviors of the people in the organization for leveraging data for improved business performance.”  (Source: Forbes.com) Data culture is a way of thinking and approaching all business decisions and plans. It is accessible by those who need it and involves the collaborative ownership of data across the employee strata. It enters regularly into discussions about how the business is doing, where its strengths are, and where the pain points are. Data has a place of respect, versus disdain. It is valued versus ignored. It is examined versus tucked away. However, for data to have these qualities it must be “clean”.

Clean data has been checked and verified. It can be replicated for its reliability. It should measure what it purports to measure, feeding its validity. If people don’t trust or believe in the data, it is difficult to have staff value, respect, or examine it in any meaningful way. No one wants data discussions that simply “check the box”. Data discussions should be intentional, meaningful, and drive decisions that matter. In order to have “innovation and productivity”, businesses must build this data culture.

Why do you need one?

All businesses want to succeed. While many challenges can impede business success, one that continues to surface again and again in the literature is a “lack of data culture”, with some calling it the number one reason.

A deep understanding of key data points is important for understanding your customers. Collecting, analyzing, and formulating plans based on solid data points will help improve your customer’s experience, improve and develop products or services your customers will love, and build your brand’s presence in the marketplace. It will help you focus your budget where it is needed, to build an array of goods and services consumers want and eliminate waste across the business.

However, this shouldn’t stop with the external focus of your business. It is important to look internally at your employees and processes as well. Do you have A-team players working on your projects? Are people being utilized efficiently and in the right “seats on the bus”? Is workflow getting the job done or are there areas to improve? These are just a few of the questions that can arise when examining your internal productivity.

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One important caveat is to be comfortable with uncertainty when examining your data.

It helps from top to bottom. Creating a data culture must have buy-in from those at the top. This benefits the company in several ways. First, they have the same focus as all levels of businesses. Second, they talk the talk and walk, building buy-in and ownership throughout. A shared understanding of the language of data also makes communication about data sources and what story the data tells a more fluid conversation. Additionally, those in top spots can ensure that the data conversations are happening because they, too, are looking at data and asking questions that lead to deeper dives. They can spot key information that the data illuminates, good or bad, and uses that to discuss more deeply and examine not just what the data is showing, but why it might look the way it does.

It ensures data accessibility. If data exists only in the silos of those who collect and store the data sets, no one else will use them. If access is overly challenging to produce, frustration will thwart efforts to fully utilize a wide range of critical data. Ensuring easy access to the right players at the right time makes data conversations more likely to occur, especially when they occur regularly and with expectations from top to bottom.

It boosts data literacy. By creating a data culture with data-literate users, you will increase the quality and complexity of the conversations, including the questions posed, the key details in the data that matter, what explains the data, and what the data may be telling us. When needed support your staff with training to help in this area. This high level of data literacy fosters richer, more meaningful discussions, leading to better, more realistic, and intentional business decisions.

It helps us grapple with uncertainty. Questions always arise when examining data. Sometimes more questions will be generated than answers. Accept that this level of uncertainty will arise and even welcome and encourage it. It is often in the struggle that significant growth occurs, and sometimes the uncertainty pushes you to develop and test hypotheses, run experiments, and test theories. This is where some of the most important work with data can be found.

What can we conclude?

What CEO aims for their targets, alone in his office, with a blindfold on? That seems on the side of absurd! However, making decisions without critical data over time, with all the players at the table, is tantamount to this level of absurdity. If a lack of data culture is considered to be one of the reasons businesses are not reaching next-level outcomes, then it stands to reason that building a solid data culture is a logical step in turning the curve for your business.

Follow our LinkedIn Group for more in this series on data and creating a culture!

Data are like points on a map. They can take you and your business places. What’s your destination? If you would like to get started on a data journey, contact Klik Analytics to get help getting started!

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